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LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
 
FSA LogoThe Luxury Hotel Insider: Exclusive luxury hotel deals, features and special rates from the luxury hotel experts at Five Star Alliance. 
 
Named one of Tripbase's Best Luxury Travel Blogs for 2011, below are Five Star Alliance's newest articles featuring exclusive information on luxury hotels worldwide including special offers and deals at the world's best hotels.

Seaside Serenity in Santa Monica: Romance is in the Air at Loews Hotel


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Loews Santa MonicaBeat the winter blues and bring your valentine to the beach! Book the Seaside Serenity package at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and you have a $200 resort credit to play with. Choose a candle-lit dinner for two, indulgent massages from the Ocean Spa & Fitness Center, a personalized consultation or yoga classes... The sky's the limit at this Santa Monica favorite, just a block from the soft sandy beach. Custom-designed rooms are so fabulous, you'll be content to just lounge around in your "Ultimate Doeskin" robes by Chadsworth & Haig, and smother yourself with the sumptuous 300 thread-count sheets, while checking out the Pacific views. The package includes one night's stay in a premium ocean view room, a special romance welcome amenity, and the $200 credit to be used towards meals, spa, fitness and/or retail. Priced from $499 per night, available February 11- February 21, 2008.

Pssst. You can bring your pup; Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is pet-friendly!


Beach Picnic with Twelve Apostles in Cape Town


By: Courtney W. May

Twelve Apostles Hotel and SpaIt's summer in South Africa and the perfect time to visit the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town. Not just because the views are amazing and the weather is awesome, but because the fantastic golden sand beaches are just minutes away. They are also perfect locations to enjoy a picnic lunch. Guests who visit the Twelve Apostles making reservations through Five Star Alliance will receive an extensive "Fynbos Picnic Hamper" with food, treats, and drinks once during their stay. Whether you are traveling with a significant other, family, pet, or friends - Twelve Apostles can accommodate everyone and is barely ten minutes from the bustling heart of Cape Town, with nearby attractions including prime diving spots, nature trails, and seals, dolphins, whales and penguins.


The Fabulous Evolution of the Hotel Mini-Bar


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Gramercy Park Hotel Mini-barIt all started back in 1963 with The Madison in Washington D.C., when the capital's landmark hotel decided to introduce a novelty: the in-room mini-bar! Fabulously convenient, stocked full of helpful items, the mini-bar is now universally appreciated (late-night snack binging!) and abhorred (scandalous overpricing!). Since its debut, the mini-bar has come a long way. In an era of truly over-the-top hotel amenities (baby butler service, pet pampering, unpacking and bath service), the mini-bar has been completely made over and sexed up.

Gramercy Park Hotel Mini-bar

Hotel Victor in Miami offers all kinds of decadent treats. A hotel this cool-- furnished by celebrity designer Jacques Garcia with retro furniture and an illuminated moon jellyfish tank in the lobby-- has gone one step further by introducing full-size in-room bars, stocked with a large range of liquor and "South Beach life-style essentials" like chilled eye masks.

The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta caters to female guests with practical items like stockings and nail-polish remover. Gentlemen, don't despair when you forget socks at home! The mini-bar is stocked with fresh pairs of black socks to match your dark suits.

Omni Hotels created Sensation Bars in cities like New York, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco with all sorts of items to create soothing mini-spa treatments in-room. Think sleep inducing CDs, lavender pillow sprays, eucalyptus bath salts and mini Zen gardens.

Hotel Mela Mini-bar

But the biggest trend of late is sex kits in the mini-bar. NY's 60 Thompson and Miami's Sagamore may have "Shag Bags," and the Montalembert in Paris has a "petite love box," but the Hotel Gansevoort has ticklers!

On a recent trip to New York, we snapped these shots of the goodies on-hand at the Hotel Mela and Gramercy Park Hotel. The mini-bar at Hotel Mela isn't refrigerated; instead you'll find a basket spilling delicious snacks, drinks, and an "Intimacy Kit." What's inside? Lifestyles, lubricant, and individually wrapped life savers. (We just couldn't resist buying one. As a *cough* souvenir...)

The mini-bar at Gramercy Park is nothing short of awesome (check out the pix). T-shirts, sweet treats... They've also got an Intimacy Kit, of course, but it's as classy as they come. And if things get too rowdy, there's a first-aid kit, to boot.

Curious? Be careful when you take that item from the mini-bar! Most of today's "smart" minibars have infra-red sensors (or wireless technology, found at the sophisticated Willard Intercontinental in Washington D.C.) that automatically records your purchase on your bill when you reach for, say, a bag of M&M's or something equally as tempting...

Photos Via Courtney May (top to bottom: mini-bar of Gramercy Park, Gramercy Park, Hotel Mela)


Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa: Eco-Friendly Luxury in the Florida Keys


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hyatt Key WestWe just checked out the new renovations at the Hyatt Key West, the "Oasis Off Duval," and liked its stylish new design and eco-friendly focus. After an $11 million makeover, this waterfront resort welcomed a hip new watering hole, Blue Mojito, and the fashionable Jala Spa featuring Payot Paris products. Officially the island's first "Green Certified" resort, the Hyatt has an exclusive partnership with the Reef Relief Organization; each time you book the signature "Jala Blue" spa treatment, the resort makes a contribution to Reef Relief. Sip a cocktail at the new bar (the "Blue Mojito" is the signature drink, of course) and watch the pool change colors with ambient lighting. (Notably, the new pool deck was designed with eco-friendly decking and pathways.) Perhaps most appealing is the resort's location facing the Gulf of Mexico, just a short stroll from all the action on Duvall Street.


Girlfriend Getaway at Montage Laguna Beach, California


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Montage Laguna BeachMontage Laguna Beach is as about as swanky as they come. High on the bluffs gazing out over the Pacific in Laguna Beach, this super-luxury resort has racked up the accolades: one of the "World's Best Hotels," one of the "100 Best Places to Stay," one of the "World's Sexiest Hotels." Steal away for a weekend with your girlfriends to relax and reconnect against a glorious backdrop, and experience the resort's outstanding service and opulent facilities. Relax at the spa (a Mobil Five-Star award-winner!), indulge with some culinary delights, soak up the sun on the white sand beaches. The Montage Memories package is perfect for any bridal shower or girls' weekend, and includes one night accommodation in a two-bedroom suite, breakfast, and a day at Spa Montage with a relaxing spa manicure and pedicure and a one-hour massage with an expert therapist. Priced at $3,300 for three people, valid until December 31, 2008. Each additional person is $565.

Via Vagablond


Valentine’s Day Special: Return to Romance at The Tides South Beach


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Tides South BeachA decadent Valentine's experience awaits at the newly-renovated Tides South Beach, the glamorous icon on Ocean Drive. Luxuriate in style and get romantically inspired. Book the "Return to Romance" package and you'll enjoy an opulent Oceanfront Suite, a dozen long stem roses, a bottle of champagne in-room, two Chocolate Chili Martini cocktails on La Marea's terrace, a lingering five-course dining experience in whatever setting strikes your fancy, and playful in-room extras (wink, wink). Total price is based on room choice, starting at $395 in the Ocean Front Studio suite. (The Tides Suite is priced at $5,000). This is a 30 percent savings! Available February 1-29, 2008.


Introducing the New Spa at Don Cesar Beach Resort, A Loews Hotel


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Don Cesar Beach ResortWhen the Don Cesar debuted in 1928 on St. Pete Beach, high society flocked to "Florida's Pink Palace." F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Lou Gehrig, Al Capone and America's pampered elite fancied this Gulf playground-- built to resemble the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki Beach for $1.2 million (but came out 300 percent over budget!) Today, the rose-colored sandcastle continues to dazzle with its sugar-white beaches, fabulous dining, renowned children's program, and newly-renovated pool deck with fresh landscaping (Canary Island Date Palms and tree-formed Oleander) and open vistas of the Gulf. You'll be tickled pink by this news: The Don Cesar will open a new spa this Spring. Spa Oceana will feature 16 treatment rooms, rooftop garden, and fire pit, with a gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico.


Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi: The World’s Costliest Hotel


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Emirates PalaceGuess where President Bush stayed last weekend on his Middle East trip? The oil-rich outpost of the United Arab Emirates boasts the most extravagant luxury hotels in the world, like the seven-star Burj Al Arab where aquarium walls full of tropical fish line the escalators, and the world's largest fleet of Rolls-Royces is available for guests.

President Bush, arriving in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, stayed in one of the basketball-court-size "Ruler's Suites" at the Emirates Palace, which bills itself as the world's costliest hotel. At $3 billion, with 300 rooms, that comes out to $10 million a room.

In this spare-no-expenses kingdom, the opulent Emirates Palace stands out because of its brand new Anantara Spa. You'll find an enormous private treatment complex, Vichy shower suite, hammam with heated marble beds, and intricate architectural details: Moorish tile floors beneath a glowing domed ceiling. Return to your room, sauntering down the hallways shimmering with gold mosaics, and enjoy private butler service and Hermes bath amenities.

P.S. We hear the hotel's best suite is the 1,185-square-foot Khaleej Suite, overlooking the Persian Gulf.


South of the Border Savings: New Mandarin Oriental, Riviera Maya


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Riviera Maya, MexicoBracing for a blizzard? Why not high-tail it south of the border to check out the brand new Mandarin Oriental on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula? Take advantage of a special opening offer and get a free fourth night when you pay for three! This is peak season in the tropics, but with this special, you'll be saving about 25 percent off Internet rates. Lounge on the beach, relax in the 25,000 square foot spa, bar-hop in the buzzing beachfront town of Playa del Carmen just 10 minutes away. This special is available until April 30, 2008, with black-out dates on February 14-17 and March 20-24.


Mariel Hemingway Hosts Girlfriend Getaway at Cambridge Beaches


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Mariel Hemingway at Cambridge BeachesIf you missed November's big event at Cambridge Beaches, here's your chance to experience the popular Girlfriend Getaway with Mariel Hemingway! The actress/author will be returning to Bermuda's exclusive resort for an unforgettable weekend devoted to healthy living on March 27-30, 2008. Expect beachside yoga classes, personal Q & A sessions, delicious meals prepared by the renowned culinary team, spa treatments and more. Only 36 guests will be allowed to attend, so register today!